Unhealthy snacking can undermine even the most well-intentioned person. When you’re hungry, all dietary intentions fly out the window. Do you find yourself hitting the vending machine every afternoon in an effort to power through the work day, only to crash an hour later? I spend a lot of time talking about the ways your diet can positively impact your health. When you eat well, you may reduce your risk of serious problems like heart disease, cancer, and depression. Making good dietary choices can even improve your ability to stay on task and get stuff done. It’s time to ditch the mind-clouding snacks for foods that help you focus. Here are some of my favorites.
If you find yourself craving something sweet in the middle of a long workday, snack on a square or two of dark chocolate. The Guardian explains that the cocoa in chocolate is a nutritional powerhouse packed with bioactive substances like flavonoids that may improve memory and cognition. In fact, a report published in 2012 by the New England Journal of Medicine noted a “surprisingly powerful” correlation between the number of Nobel laureates in various countries and the per capita amount of chocolate consumed. Just make sure you choose chocolate that’s at least 70 percent dark to get the health benefits minus the excess sugar.
I include these nutritious nuts on my list of foods to eat if you’re in a slump because they contain mood-boosting magnesium. But research indicates walnuts are also excellent for cognitive health. The Huffington Post reports that a 2015 study found eating just a few walnuts a day may improve memory and concentration as well as increase the speed at which you process information. Walnuts are high in alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to be good for your brain. They also provide your body with fiber, good fat, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Next time you’re struggling to focus and craving a crunchy snack, reach for a handful of walnuts.
Supremely snackable on their own or blended into a smoothie, blueberries make excellent brain food. According to Dr. Axe, the beneficial cognitive effects of blueberries can be attributed to their high levels of gallic acid, which has been associated with reduced brain deterioration. Other research attributes blueberries’ brain-protecting power to the fact that they’re rich in antioxidant flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins. Whatever the reason, it’s undeniable that the humble blueberry has a striking ability to boost brain power. They’re also relatively low in calories and high in fiber, so eat up!
Hard Boiled Eggs
Eggs are sometimes referred to as “nature’s perfect food” because they’re such a good source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and more. According to Tieraona Low Dog, MD, eggs are rich in choline, a nutrient associated with memory and cognition that many people don’t get enough of in their diets. Perhaps you’ve been avoiding eggs because of their cholesterol content, but no need—the latest science indicates the health benefits of eating eggs far outweigh the risk associated with their cholesterol content. How do you know which eggs will give you the most bang for your buck? Bon Appetit suggests looking for ones that are organic, pastured or free-range, and USDA grade A or AA. Boil a dozen on Sunday and you’re set with a week’s worth of healthy, brain-boosting snacks.
Want to focus without jittery side effects? Replace your afternoon coffee with a cup of green tea. Both green and black tea contain a compound called L-theanine that has been shown to bring about a state of relaxed alertness. Working synergistically with the moderate amount of caffeine found in green tea, L-theanine increases memory and improves reaction time. L-theanine is on my list of top supplements for brain health because it has the ability to relax you while helping you focus. One systematic review found L-theanine simultaneously reduced anxiety and increased attention. Plus the anti-oxidants in green tea can keep you from catching your work colleagues’ cold.
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About Myles Spar, MD
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher